Was in Bangkok visiting with partners Andrew Stoutley and Alan Adcock at Tilleke & Gibbins, one of the leading commercial law firms in Southeast Asia, and to see our rising 2L student Seyonna Christian who is externing in the IP practice of the firm. What a great experience for her!
On Tuesday, March 29, 2022, Santa Clara University School of Law will honor Julia Olson with the Katharine and George Alexander Prize. Registration for the event is free. For those unable to attend in-person, the Prize Ceremony will be livestreamed. (As an aside, in 2018, Santa Clara Law School also honored alum Phil Gregory (JD/MBA ’80), who works closely with Julia Olson on her climate change cases, with the Edwin J. Owens Lawyer of the Year Award.) Santa Clara 2L Student Ariana Snyder prepared this 2-part write-up of our honoree and her trail-blazing work:
Part 1 – Julia Olson (By Ariana Snyder): Julia Olson graduated from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law in 1997. Her work as an advocate began early in her legal career when she represented various environmental groups working to protect the environment, organic agriculture, and human health. In 2006, on one hot summer day, eight-month pregnant Julia Olson went on a run. The heat was unbearable and so she sought out a place to cool off. Al Gore’s documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” about climate change and the growing planetary emergency happened to play in a local movie theater.
When Julia Olson saw the film, she thought about the child she was pregnant with and the world they would be born into. Her child would be brought into a possibly unsafe planet plagued with climate issues. After coming to this realization and feeling the weight of her children’s future on her shoulders, Julia Olson knew she had to do something to protect her children’s future. A few years later, in 2010, Julia Olson founded Our Children’s Trust to lead a legal campaign on the behalf of all future generations.
Our Children’s Trust is a non-profit public interest law firm that provides campaign-based legal services to youths to protect their legal rights to a safe climate. She was inspired by the work of one of the world’s most respected climate scientists James Hansen and the Minors Oposa case, a lawsuit in the Philippines brought (and won) by environmental attorney Tony Oposa on behalf of his children against the government. Our Children’s Trust actively works to secure the Earth’s climate system for the present and future generations. Its legal campaign uses a strategy that focuses on media, education, and public engagement, with the goal of ensuring climate recovery planning at various government levels.
By the following year, Our Children’s Trust planned to file lawsuits in 50 states, but the law firm saw some defeats both in state and federal courts. After a review of its legal strategy, Our Children’s Trust filed a federal suit in Oregon raising constitutional claims. In 2015 Juliana v. United States was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon.
(By Ariana Snyder) Juliana v. United States was brought by 21 youth plaintiffs against the U.S. government for violating their Fifth Amendment rights to life, liberty, property, and public trust resources. The lawsuit is the first of its kind to argue that there is a constitutional right to a safe and livable environment. All youths assert that they have been detrimentally injured by climate change. For example, one plaintiff states that due to climate change a massive storm dumped heavy rain on her home in Southern Louisiana causing storm water and sewage flooding; other plaintiffs assert respiratory problems due to wildfire smoke and longer pollen seasons. Almost all of the plaintiffs raise psychological distress as a result of the changing climate. The lawsuit specifically asks the Oregon courts to order the United States government to prepare a plan on how to lower global carbon dioxide levels.
The lawsuit has helped bring attention to key issues in the ongoing public debate about climate change policy. Politicians, government lawyers, and the U.S. Department of Justice have argued that climate policy should be left to Congress and the Executive Branch, some even going as far as to argue that the Courts do not have jurisdiction over climate change lawsuits. Essentially, the argument hinges on the idea that climate policy must be addressed by the political process- voting, policy, representation, etc. This puts the youth plaintiffs in an untenable position. As youths, they are not permitted to participate in the political process since they may not vote. In fact, the future generations that the lawsuit hopes to advocate for cannot participate in the political process either. Yet, it is the youth and unborn future generations that will be impacted most by the government’s failure to solve today’s climate change problem. At present, the plaintiffs are waiting for a ruling on their Motion for Leave to File a Second Amended Complaint and a Motion to Intervene.
In addition to Juliana v. United States, Our Children’s Trust has other cases pending in state courts and elsewhere across the world. For example, on March 13, 2020, the organization helped 16 youths in Montana file a constitutional climate lawsuit, arguing that Montana is violating their state constitutional rights to a clean and healthful environment. The plaintiffs and attorneys are currently gathering evidence and preparing for trial, which is scheduled for early 2023. Our Children’s Trust also participates in global cases. For instance, the organization is currently helping with the case Jóvenes v. Gobierno de México, where 15 youth plaintiffs are requesting the Mexican government comply with its constitutional obligations and issue regulations concerning Mexico’s climate change law. Currently, the plaintiffs are preparing for a hearing in 2022.
Working on the cutting edge of climate change litigation and pushing the law beyond conventional doctrine has not come without difficulties and setbacks. Yet, there are few causes as worthy as advocating for the welfare of children and unborn future generations who will suffer the most from climate change. With her dedication to ensuring a livable planet for current and future generations, Julia Olson is truly a deserving recipient of the Katharine and George Alexander Prize.
This weekend, the California State Bar announced the results of the July 2021 bar exams. Unfortunately not everybody passes; the California bar exam is the the toughest in the country. But for me, as a teacher, finding out who did pass and will be able to join the legal profession, makes this one of the best times of the year (next to commencement). I always check the public list and send out notes to the former students for whom I have contact info. I also saw some videos of individuals finding out that they past and celebrating – what a joy! Congratulations to all of my former students (and everybody else who passed)! Welcome to the profession.
A federal court deemed hippos in Colombia to be “interested persons” under 28 USC 1728, allowing some federal officials to be deposed for a proceedings seeking personhood rights for descendants of Pablo Escobar’s cocaine hippos. This article and the implications of the legal success in this litigation brought by the Animal Legal Defense Fund piqued my interest.
Ordinarily, this would be just a legal oddity, though pretty unusual, since the U.S. courts have generally resisted lawsuits seeking legal personhood status for animals in the past. (For example, there is Tilikum v. Seaworld case (842 F.Supp. 2d 1259 (S.D.Cal. 2012)), where a federal court denied a 13th Amendment slavery claim by PETA on behalf the orca (killer whale) Tilikum for being kept in captivity. And also various unsuccessful habeas corpus cases brought by the leading animal rights lawyer Steven Wise of the Nonhuman Human Rights Project on behalf of chimpanzees kept in captivity.) But this is an interesting development in the context of more recent broader efforts, especially abroad, to accord legal personality and rights to animals and even rivers and landscapes. The best-known and probably most robust of these developments (discussed in the Rights of Nature chapter of our Comparative and Global Environmental Law Casebook) is a New Zealand statute that accords the Whanganui River (Te Awa Tupua) with legal personhood, the Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Claims Settlement) Act (2017).
While U.S. Magistrate Judge’s Litkovitz’s very short order in this litigation is interesting, it’s unfortunate that the media has jumped on the precarious implications of legal personhood for the hippos. The order itself addresses none of that. Ultimately, 28 U.S.C. 1728 is a procedural code provision designed to facilitate cross-border litigation, sort of like a professional courtesy for judges and lawyers from other countries because the US system has to rely reciprocally on such courtesies when cases here require evidence or testimony from abroad. An Above the Law blog post noted that Colombia does allow animals to bring lawsuits (or for cases to be brought on behalf of them), and so recognizing the state of Colombian law would not necessarily imply a change in US law. Furthermore, while I don’t focus on these procedural issues of law, this code provision has allowed agents of parties in foreign litigation to seek the federal courts’ assistance with witness testimony/depositions, just as the lawyers for the hippos (the animals’ supposed agents) have done here. So, unfortunately, the screaming headlines are overreaching by a lot. But what’s new about that . . .
Anyway, really interesting legal development; but likely of limited legal significance. (But significant enough that we’ll probably include a reference to it in the next edition of our casebook.)
As I posted previously, the Center for Global Law and Policy was looking for a program manager for our Center programs. We recently received approval to upgrade the position to Senior Program Manager (compensation commensurate with qualifications) and thus have re-posted the job position to reflect that change. The link to Santa Clara University’s Workday listing (the University’s human resources job listings website) remains the same (but now shows the updated position title). For reference, here it is again:
In a nutshell, the Senior Program Manager for the Center for Global Law and Policy is in charge of the day-to-day operations of the Center, which includes both planning and providing operational support for the Center’s nine summer study-abroad programs in Asia and Australia, Europe, and Latin America, administering the Center’s International Law Certificates options and student exchange programs, and supporting all other aspects of the Center’s activities. For additional information for the Center for Global Law and Policy, please see CGLP’s website.
We will take resumes until the position is filled. However, for priority consideration, please submit application materials (cover letter, resume or CV, and references) by October 24, 2021. The materials should be submitted directly via the Workday job listing (which can be reached via the provided link).
Please share this job opportunity with anybody who might be interested.
Please note the October 11, 2021 update on this position.
Oh no! The Center for Global Law and Policy’s current program manager Hallie Bodey is leaving us for another opportunity (that comes with a promotion) at Santa Clara University. So we are looking for a person to fill her big shoes. (We’ll take resumes until the position is filled, but please submit soon since we are starting to review job applications right away.) Here is a link to the Santa Clara University’s Workday posting for this position, which also includes a detailed description of the job responsibilities:
(And yes, this position would report to me.)
For Summer 2022: https://calawyers.org/section/environmental-law/fellowships/
This is a terrific opportunity for law students. One of my students spent a summer with Earthjustice through this fellowship and had a great experience.
The Cal Bar Environmental Law Section is running a series of basic introductory webinars to environmental law. I watched the intro to Air Pollution Law (Air Quality Law 101) last week, and it was an excellent introduction to air pollution law suitable for law students or junior lawyers who have had little or no exposure environmental law. I highly recommend it for law students interested in environmental law. I’ll post the link to the recorded presentations when the Section makes it available. (By the way, these webinar definitely have a California emphasis – but then again California is the most important state jurisdiction for environmental law purposes . . . . that was a joke.)
For those interested in a basic intro to water law (which would include both pollution and water rights, I assume), there is another webinar coming up. Registration is free. Here is a link for the registration and also a short description of the webinar below: https://calawyers.org/event/webinar-intro-to-environmental-law-series-water-law-101/
From the notice about this webinar series:
“Interested in the practice of environmental law? Running into basic environmental issues in your field of law? The Environmental Law Section and the California Young Lawyers Association (CYLA) are excited to co-present this free series covering key practice areas within the environmental legal field. This series is geared toward law students, new lawyers, and even experienced attorneys interested in learning more about environmental law.”
“Participants will receive a “101” level introduction to the practice area from private, government, and non-profit lawyers. Each panel will include a high-level overview of the basic legal framework, real-life project examples, and a question-and-answer session for attendees to meet members practicing in the field. This year’s series will conclude with a primer on the Environmental Law Section’s 30th annual Yosemite Conference, scheduled for October 14-17, 2021.”